College Football’s Biggest Surprises

Andrew Vojt

It has been just three weeks since the start of the college football season, and while we are still watching LSU, Alabama and Or-egon dominate at the top of the polls, some programs have been surprisingly strong.

I must admit though, I looked too deep into the preseason polls when picking USC to win the BCS Championship. I looked too deep into Matt Barkley’s stellar ju-nior season and I looked too deep into the Trojans’ defense.

The now ninth-ranked Stanford Car-dinal outmatched the entire lineup, and now USC has little shot of getting to the title game. Barkley failed in what could be the second-biggest game of the season with a sub-par stat line of 20-for-41, 254 yards, two interceptions and no touch-downs. On the Stanford side, stud running back in Stepfan Taylor helped them forget about losing Andrew Luck and kept their eyes pointed towards a victory. The senior packed on another good game with 153 yards and put the Cardinal back on top in the PAC-12. Can they take down third-ranked Oregon and lock the number one spot in the standings? November 17 should set up a high-profile matchup between two stellar teams in the entire NCAA.

Who would’ve thought that the Fight-ing Irish of Notre Dame would knock off Michigan State and be 3-0? I certainly didn’t. Somehow, the Irish came from no-where to shock the Spartans and start out the season undefeated. Their defense has been key to their success, especially last Saturday at the hands of senior linebacker Manti Te’o, who went through a week no one should ever go through. Te’o lost his grandmother on September 11 and nearly 10 hours later lost his girlfriend to leuke-mia. In a time where even showing up on the field is a sign of pure strength, Te’o left it all out on the field and, along with his defensive teammates, held the Spartan’s running back Le’Veon Bell to only 77 yards on the ground. The win showed how the Irish can rally around members in times of need and use it to shut down any opponent. How impressive would it be if Notre Dame used their rally cry to get through a treach-erous schedule in the next five weeks, which features games against Michigan, Stanford and Oklahoma? Based off their play against the Spartans and the strength of a heartbro-ken Te’o, the Irish are suited to knock off some deadly opponents.

Speaking of undefeated teams, Florida has flown under the radar en route to a 3-0 start. Sophomore quarterback John Driskel is gaining experience and playing well un-der center, throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 81 against Tennessee this past weekend. The Gators looked tough in their past two road games, and they can only go up from here based on their mediocre season last year. However, they need to reach a whole new level as the season progresses as they face four of the current top seven teams in the NCAA in their remaining contests.

Their in-state rival, FSU, has had a monster season so far, only allowing three points in games against less-than-stellar opponents. Regardless, the Seminoles’ defense has been one of the best in the country, while the offense has managed to stay away from the injury bug. This is Flor-ida State’s best chance to get back into the national spotlight. They need to stay strong and beat the teams they are supposed to beat. If the un-tested Seminoles can do that, they will be well on their way to keeping a top-five ranking.

In most cases, it is sad to see such a fall in the rankings from a top college football program. In 2007, then-No. 5 Michigan fell in an epic game to FCS power Appala-chian State and dropped completely out of the rankings, debilitating their season and pushing them into a slump that would last them until last season. This year’s Michigan is the Arkansas Razorbacks. Starting out the season ranked tenth and being regarded as the team that had the best chance to knock off LSU or Alabama, the Razorbacks’ mo-mentum was completely stopped after a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, dropping them out of the rankings and giving them no time to pick up the pieces. Heisman-favorite-no-more Tyler Wilson has a costly injury and the lackluster return of Nile Davis has done nothing to help the Hogs. That leaves LSU and Alabama to rule the SEC, lest Georgia, South Carolina or Florida can pull of the upset and send the college football world into utter chaos.

Contact Andrew Vojt at [email protected].